Daydreaming about the Astros on the eve of spring games

So, the other day I’m walking along a beach in old Persia (I swear!) when I found this old oil lamp half-buried in the sand. After I dug it up, I tried to wipe the thing off — it had seaweed everywhere — and much to my surprise, out popped a Genie (Djinn for those of you purists).

Anyway, so after a couple of wasted wishes (in my defense, that sandwich was really tasty, and I HAD run out of sunscreen), I decided to make my last wish count.

“No wishing for more wishes, my Master,” the Djinn said. “Have you not seen a Disney movie?”


“So, what do you wish?”

“Well, how about the Astros win the World Series?”

“I’m a Djinn, not a miracle worker. Pick something reasonable. Something possible. Something that I must only nudge in the right direction to make it happen.”

“So, I can’t wish the Yankees …” Spit! “… a 162-loss season?”

The Djinn gave me a disapproving look.

“Fine,” I said, “I’ll make some reasonable wishes, and you can tell me which are allowed and which are just wishful thinking.”

So, here are my wish possibilities. Let me know which fit the Djinn’s criteria and which are wasted wishes that just cannot happen.

1. A.J. Hinch seems to have the hot hand when it comes to pitching changes and pinch hitting, going to the pen at the right time nearly each time, and grabbing that correct bat off the bench. In part, Hinch’s genius comes from better options that were available to his predecessor, but part of his success comes from reading his players and getting the most out of them.

2. True to his history, Jon Singleton adjusts a bit on his second year at a level, consistently hitting right around .240 all season but also drawing plenty of walks. His higher contact rate (how could it not get higher than in 2014) also meant a higher SLG, fewer ABs between homers and a K rate in the 20s. Oh, and that above-average defense finally flashed the leather in 2015.

3. While Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman put up numbers in the same ballpark (pun intended) as in 2014, it is Brett Oberholtzer whose big step forward is the improvement the starting rotation needs. Obie makes 30 starts in 2015, pitches more than 175 innings and posts an ERA in the mid-3.00s. While the fifth starter spot becomes a revolving door due to nagging injuries and some ineffectiveness, even that spot is seen as a strength compared to many other teams.

4. Jake Marisnick starts squaring up on the ball, turning into a solid line-drive hitter. The fourth outfielder makes Colby Rasmus expendable, and the hillbilly slugger gets traded to a surprising Braves team at the deadline. Of course, the Braves collapse in August, but that’s not Rasmus’ fault. Meanwhile, Jake From State Farm’s batting average tops the .285 mark. And a surprising amount of power — more doubles and triples than homers, but even those tick up a bit — means opposing pitchers need to take Jake seriously, giving him a .330 OBP to go with his .400 SLG.

5. Given the closer spot right out of spring training, Luke Gregerson becomes lights out. Meanwhile Neshek and Qualls take turns in the eighth inning, and Sipp and Fields take turn disrupting lineups by taking over in the seventh. When not grabbing a spot start, Jake Buchanan is always good for two innings of relief on any given night.

6. Back from his injured finger of 2014, Jed Lowrie puts up a repeat of his best numbers ever, putting up an OPS of nearly .800  while bashing nearly 20 HRs and playing about 150 games. Best of all, he and Jose Altuve combine for more double plays than any pair of infielders in the game.

7. It’s 2013 all over again for Jason Castro. While he plays only 118 games behind the plate, Castro’s .820 OPS and 22 HRs are the best of all AL backstops. And working with Hank Conger, Castro improves his defense and pitch framing, giving him one of the best catcher seasons in recent memory.

8. George Springer‘s health has never been better. The Astros CF-RF raises his BA to .263. But the ripple effect of that can be seen throughout his stats. In a full season, he strikes out “only” 175 times, tops 40 HRs, and sees his OBP climb to .375. Springer’s OPS falls just short of .900, but when combined with his stellar defense gives Springer a WAR of nearly 7.0.

So, are any of these wishes a wish too far?

Which of my wishes would you want the Djinn to grant?

If you had just one wish — and you don’t like mine — what reasonable wish would you make?

42 comments on “Daydreaming about the Astros on the eve of spring games

  1. Wow!
    1. On a scale of 1-5, I see the chance that Hinch turns into this manager this year at a 3.5. He is smart and level headed, so his advantage over his predecessor is distinct and he has better players to work with.
    2.I see this amount of improvement in Singleton as having a chance of 3 out of five because the bar you set here would have him as an average player and that is doable with his physical talent.
    3.I can see Ober pitching 175 innings but the mid 3’s ERA is a big deal. What you’re asking him to do is get you through six innings instead of just five, and that ERA would be tough to maintain with an extra inning on the mound. Ober’s third pitch is really going to have to improve (or that cutter he’s adding is going to have to be effective) to get him three outs deeper in the game. I give him a 3(average) chance to make your advancements.
    4.You are asking my Jake to be something he’s never been. I think you are going to need a Higher Power than a genie to make this one happen. If it’s a genie doing the work I give this a 1 chance of happening. If the Higher Power is involved Marisnick could become DiMaggio.
    5.From what I’ve read Gregerson doesn’t have closer stuff. But I sure don’t have all the answers because if I did I would have known that Astros fans like Valbuena by twice as much as they like Grossman in the TCB March Madness Astros favorites contest. That absolutely floored me! I’ll give the Gregerson closer deal a 3 chance of happening because I’m not a genie and Gregerson doesn’t have a lot of competition right now.
    6.You’re asking the genie to make Lowrie an All-Star. I don’t see it happening at age 31. There’s a slight chance of that happening, but the more he plays, the greater chance he has of getting hurt. 1.5 chance of Jed accomplishing this out of 5.
    7. Castro being an All-Star again. It’s not impossible, so with a manager change and a lot more power in the lineup with him I see this as a possibility. I give the Genie a 3 (Average) chance of making this happen.
    8. You want the genie to make George Springer a Mike Trout. I see this happening in 2016 or 2017, but now? OK, I give a 2(below average) chance of happening. But it’s not a 1 because Springer has the ceiling of a Mike Trout. The biggest obstacle holding Springer back is Jeff Luhnow. Putting Springer in RF is like putting Dale, Jr in a Volvo. Sure, he’ll drive it like it’s never been driven, but you are definitely wasting him.


  2. Brian, I’ll cherry pick a bit.

    I’m in on Singleton. Always have believed — that may be more “hope” than “belief” — that he would catch up to the game. I’ve made your point about second half of each level before and it’s true.

    Castro an All Star? Remember, the Astros have had to pick someone the past few years. I do agree that Castro gets the brunt of fans disgust more than he should, but there will be others who will be battling for that one spot this year…if it’s only one. Heck, all Altuve has to do is hit .280 and be in the top 5 in SBs and hits and he’s automatic, don’t you think?

    On the closer situation, I’ll take Hinch and Luhnow at their words about not having made any decisions at this point. However, this winter, pundits mentioned Gregerson as one of the best closers-in-waiting, so I’m thinking he was acquired with at least be the odds on favorite. Two things indicate this: He’s a Luhnow guy (drafted by St. Louis in 2006) and he’s earning closer dollars ($6 per season/3 seasons).


      • Brian, I’m not suggesting that Castro won’t have a good season. But the All Star selection may not necessarily be the barometer given the fact that Houston is likely to have more candidates this year than in past years. Not to start a war of speculation here, but Springer, Keuchel or even Gattis/Carter could join Altuve and possibly Castro as those candidates if they get out of the gate quickly. Gattis/Carter in the HR department alone could garner interest and attention.

        Just daydreaming, of course.


      • Do we assume Cano wins the fan vote before season starts? I think it would require an amazing first half to get anyone voted in from the Astros. Springer could go back on a tear like last summer, but for a longer period of time, and maybe do it. Castro could do it with a really strong offensive half I suppose.


  3. I’m sorry, I just can’t believe the Braves are going to be good this year.

    As for Lowrie, my suggested lineup goes:
    Altuve, Springer, Lowrie, Carter, Rasmus, Gattis, Singleton, Castro, Valbuena. I think he squares it up enough to drive in runs, but prob not by hitting 20 HRs.


  4. Oh great Djinn of the red-laced spheroid . . . welcome to Houston.
    My first wish is that the Astros would draft a future hall-of-famer in the 2015 draft. My second wish is that the GM would actually sign him. My third wish is that this superstar to be named later would play his entire career, and win at least three World Series rings, with the Astros’ organization.

    And if you can’t pull that off, well, back in the bottle it is for you. But before you go, if you don’t mind I’ll have a little of dtonic to go with djinn.


  5. I would go with number eight. Springer’s personality and effort is contagious and would enhance the club’s overall play throughout the season. We saw this last year when he came up and got into his rhythm. Everyone had fun and the wins began to show up. Springer all the way!


  6. very entertaining post brian. the one wish i would add is, all of these players become better because of the players around them. this especially could be true in the lineup and defensively as well.


  7. OK, I’ll play it straight. I think Ober has the best chance to meet the goals you laid out. He had a low ERA in his first season in the majors, then batters adjusted last year and he has the chance to adjust this year. He has a chance at 30 starts because he does not have an injury history. He did not have an ERA in the minors of 3.50 anytime after 2010 in low A. But, he is trying something new with a pitch that isn’t new, so between that and Strom helping him, I think what you ask of the genie with Ober is possible and maybe more probable than two others. That deal with Hinch and pinch hitters would have to entail him actually having good pinch hitters. And Singleton hitting .240 and having above average defense and K rate in the 20’s is three things he would have trouble doing.
    I go with Ober, because he’s not going to be shut down early(30 starts x 6 inn= 180IP. That ERA is the tough part because he is just going to have to be the best pitcher he has ever been. He could do that.


  8. I think Obie will be this year’s Keuchel. Just a hunch. Maybe not *quite* as good, but he’s gonna break through.

    Castro has about as much chance of hitting his 2013 numbers as Al Osuna getting into the Hall of Fame via Veteran’s Committee. That was a career year for him. He’d be lucky to hit .250 with 10 HRs this year.


  9. I am going with #1, but add one addition. By the 6th inning, any reliever that he brings into the game – provided the Astros have a 2 run or greater lead – that reliever has to pitch until at least one batter gets on base. Nothing gets me going worse than a manager bringing in 2-3-4 relievers in the 6th inning to face one batter. I realize that “he” has poor statistics against a righty or lefty, but it might be because he does not get to face any all year.


    • If I get to pick one wish to come true of these 8, it is #8 Springer, hands down. That kind of a year from him opens everything up for next year and you can forget about having to overpay for free agents. That kind of a year from him puts 10,000 more fans in MMP
      An MVP-like year from him combined with Altuve near the top of the lineup and a 21 year old Correa getting close, you are going to get some serious consideration from pitcher looking for a new home.


  10. Breaking news. Can you believe it? Davy Jones [once thought to have died], Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith have all just emerged, one at a time, in the key of C, from Brian T’s smoking lamp. Or maybe it was Jon Singleton’s doobie. Anyway, disembarking from the Last Train to Clarksville, Davy and the gang are joining Brian’s Djinn party in progress. Strolling ‘Monkee style’ into the bar of Brian T’s beachfront hotel in Persia, Davy has broken into song. Somewhat credible sources report – in Farsi, of course – that the song he is singing goes something like this:

    Oh put some lime juice on the rim of your tonic and your gin;
    The Grapefruit season’s starting once again.
    But will that Osceola wind be blowing out or blowing in?
    And who will wear a frown and who a grin?

    Cheer up snarky Djinn! Oh what can it mean,
    to a Daydream believer flush with booze and sunscreen.

    You once thought of Crane as a white knight on a steed.
    But now you know how ‘Crane-ky’ he can be.
    Of course a franchise cannot win without dollar one to spend;
    but how many All-Stars do we really need?

    [all together now . . .] Cheer up snarky Djinn! Oh what can it mean,
    to a Daydream believer with booze and sunscreen.

    Okay, so maybe all the ‘Stros are going to do is this year is monkee around. But maybe, just maybe, by the grace of your Auntie Grizelda this will be the year we can finally start to look the AL West competition square in the eye and say ‘I-I-I-I-I’m not your steppin’ stone’. And who knows, maybe when it’s over even Bopert will have no choice but to say “I’m a believer”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dream all you want people. 75 wins in 2015, max. Then next year, with payroll still paltry, the fans will finally realize this club is going nowhere…


  12. My dream is for the team chemistry can come together and EVERYBODY acts like they are proud to be in an Astros uniform. Lots of guys last year had body language that indicated they hoped they would be traded, reach free agency quickly, get paid while being “hurt” or playing out a contract, etc. etc. If everybody really buys into the front office plan, I dream this team will win 79 games in 2015. I am not convinced that all of the players completely believe that the front office knows how to play baseball. I have nightmares (bad dreams) about the potential for the starting pitching to go south with insufficient major league depth and the high strikeout hitters scare me too. I hope the players don’t have the same nightmares….


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